Fatigue in patients with brain tumors can have a profoundly negative impact on their daily life. Experts within the Brain Tumor Center of Amsterdam UMC are researching if Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can treat fatigue. If this intervention proves to be effective, the therapy might be implemented in the standard care of all brain tumor patients.

The team is setting up collaborations with various health care centers to be able to help as many people with a brain tumor as possible within this study. While there is no evidence-based or widely accepted treatment against fatigue in patients with a brain tumor to date, the researchers are optimistic that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can effectively treat fatigue in these patients. “We expect that the quality of life will improve and that patients will suffer less from fatigue and maybe also depression, anxiety, reduced physical fitness  and concentration problems,” says medical doctor and PhD-student Jantine Röttgering.

A lot of patients with a brain tumor suffer from fatigue, often long-term and severe, which negatively impacts their quality of life. Fatigue usually starts when these patients are diagnosed, operated on, or treated with radiation and chemotherapy, and may even persist for years after initial treatment. Since brain tumors are often incurable, it is important to also focus on the quality of life and address any complaints that patients report.

In the clinical research project ‘GRIP op vermoeidheid’, literally translated as ‘grip on fatigue’, Jantine Röttgering and a multidisciplinary team coordinated by clinical neuropsychologist Prof. Dr. Martin Klein are investigating whether Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can reduce fatigue symptoms and improve the quality of life for patients with brain tumors. This research is initiated by a multidisciplinary research team of the Brain Tumor Center of Amsterdam UMC.

The first patients have already successfully completed the treatment! Patients set their own goals regarding fatigue, for example having energy to volunteer or meet up with friends. We hope to prove that we can treat fatigue with cognitive behavioral therapy via an online platform and e-health, that would make a huge difference.” - Jantine Röttgering.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)  targeting fatigue has been shown to be effective for patient populations with, for example, palliative cancer, breast cancer, or multiple sclerosis. Thanks to funding by a large anonymous donation, the project ‘GRIP op vermoeidheid’ has been specifically designed for patients with a brain tumor. The CBT consists of a combination of consultations with a therapist and online treatment modules focusing on the thoughts and behaviors maintaining or sometimes even worsening fatigue.

The intervention takes twelve weeks and includes five (video) consultations with a therapist and participation in online personalized treatment modules. Assessments are made before the therapy, directly after, and ten weeks following treatment by questionnaires. The multidisciplinary team is also investigating whether certain characteristics of patients, brain scans, cognitive functioning, or blood markers can predict for whom Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is effective, in order to prevent the treatment of unresponsive patients. A number of patients have already successfully completed the treatment program.

The researchers can be contacted via email (gripopvermoeidheid@amsterdamumc.nl) with any questions or remarks.